Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians: Sharon Azrieli. Soprano (Opera & Jazz Singer), Cantor


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Sharon Azrieli


Music Online. Under the Radar

Welcome to our Sunday music section called

“Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians.”

By David Eisenstadt

TORONTO.  June 12/22 – Did you know that Sharon Azrieli, the notable classical, operatic, and musical theatre soprano, and cantor, is also a jazz singer?  

Just listen to her latest album, Secret Places: A Musical Tribute To Michel Legrand, released on March 4, 2022.  Her favourite track is I Will Wait For You.

Sharon is one of three daughters and a brother born in Montreal, Quebec to Polish Jewish Holocaust survivor, real estate developer, and philanthropist David, and Montreal-born, Stephanie (née Lefcourt) Azrieli.

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I Will Wait For You

>>>Click HERE to hear this recording <<<


Sharon attended Jewish day school becoming fluent in Hebrew. Early on she developed an interest in Jewish music. Fast forward, as an opera singer and as a cantor, “I noticed the music of Giuseppe Verdi.  His Requiem was fascinating, so I enrolled at the Université de Montréal and completed a doctoral thesis on the ethnomusicological links between Verdi’s use of Jewish scales/modes in his operas.”

Music was always a part of family life but “my father did not want me to become a professional singer.  It was not until I graduated with a BA from Vassar in Art History and an Advanced Certificate in Illustration from Parsons School of Design that I found Ellen Faull’s extension school at Julliard and was accepted there after a long and arduous audition process.”  She graduated in 1991 and “had a pretty decent career for a short time”, singing leading roles at the Sarasota Opera and Opéra national de Paris, as examples. 

Sharon’s career went on hiatus after the birth of her two children in 1995 and 1997 but she found time to complete her Master’s in 2007 and Doctor of Music at the Université de Montréal in 2011. Other teachers besides Faull who were major influences included Rosemarie Landry at the Université de Montréal and for the last 11 years, Azrieli studied with vocal coach Bill Schuman in New York City. Her mentors included Joan Dornemann, Principal Prompter at the Metropolitan Opera, and the late Herbert Breslin.

Dornemann invited Azrieli to attend her Vocal Arts Institute in Israel over three successive summers where she performed in several leading roles.

Over the years she has performed with symphony orchestras in Japan and  Israel, among others.

Her musical path took a curious turn. “As a single parent, I had no back-up, and travelling for my career took a toll.” So, she decided to study Cantorial Music at the Academy for Jewish Religion in New York. 

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Sharon Azrieli – Hashkiveynu – Israel Chamber Orchestra

>>> Click HERE to hear this recording <<<


She explained, “I was in Munich to audition, and felt so guilty leaving my kids at home and thought that I might need to move with them to Germany but, then I was called to become a cantorial soloist for Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, Long Island, New York. Their Rabbi heard me sing at one of the Cantorial school auditions.  One year later, I became Montreal’s first female Cantor at Temple Emanu-El-Beth Sholom from 2001 to 2003, which was a great honour.”

Taking another career turn, Azrieli lists an impressive discography including Frankly SharonNew Jewish Music Vols. 1,2,3Sharon Azrieli Sings BroadwayThe Gift Of JoyRare French Arias Of The 19th Century; Fiddler On The Roof (in Yiddish); Friday Night Live and A Few Of My Favorite Sings.

The pandemic affected her career when like so many artists “I saw contracts on hold, put off or were never going to happen.  One can’t really wear a mask while singing, but I’m grateful that some vocal performance opportunities have resumed.  I think opera may never fully recover and this is partly why I’m so happy to have switched to jazz. It was so much fun this March to be on my North American tour”, singing for audiences in Los Angeles and Oakland, California; Seattle, Washington; Edmonton, Alberta; and Vancouver and Victoria, British Columbia. Tamir Hendelman is her band leader.

Upcoming gigs will include a tribute to Boris Brott (cjnonline.com -April 8, 2022) with Aline Kutan and players of the Orchestra Classique de Montréal; a tribute concert to Joseph Rouleau at Domaine Forget, an international music festival, and a music and dance academy in Saint Irénée in Charlevoix, Quebec, plus, the FestivalOpéra de Saint-Eustache concert. Also scheduled is a French Music master class and a concert on Syros Island in Greece and a South American tour with violinist Alexandre da Costa. 

She will also perform at the World Premiere of Aharon Harlap’s 2022 Azrieli Music Prize-winning piece with Orchestra Métropolitain.

In the meantime, she’s slated to release an album of original songs and jazz standards with the virtuosic pianist/composer Matt Herskowitz; a disc of lullabies arranged by Jonathan Monro; a collection of Canadian Broadway numbers by Canadian composers and an album about Jewish divas of the 19th century with renowned conductor Steven Mercurio.  Also planned is a second CD with Frank Wildhorn that follows Frankly Sharon.

Credits: Photo- Jeffrey Hornstein; The Orchard Enterprises/YouTube; Sharon Azrieli/YouTube

Reader’s Comments

-The late concert saxophonist Paul Brodie and I played a saxophone and harp recital at Temple Emanu-El-Beth-Sholom in Montreal when Sharon was the “cantorial soloist” as she liked to be called, rather than cantor. I accompanied her on some Sephardic songs that were included in the concert and she was very particular about the timing of every phrase! She and her family have certainly become one of the truly great philanthropist families of our time. – EG, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


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A complete list of David Eisenstadt’s articles can be viewed under Music Online in the category section. Do you have comments or questions about this article? Contact David  Eisenstadt at cjnonline@protonmail.com  or deisenstadt@tcgpr.com

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David Eisenstadt is the author of Under the Radar, 30 Notable Canadian Jewish Musicians. He is Founding Partner of tcgpr.com and a graduate of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and the University of Calgary.


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